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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Cook book photography, HELP!
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03/26/2007 06:57:55 AM · #1
Does anyone have any experience with cook book photography? I need some serious help here. Someone would like me to take picture of his dishes for a cooking mag and I said sure. The thing is that this needs to be done soon so I don't have MUCH time to screw around with test shots. Can anyone give me any tips to spped up the learning process? I'm thinking in terms of lighting especially. It would be greatly appreciated.

Chris
03/26/2007 07:21:51 AM · #2
check out ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' hotpasta's food stuff...
quick example..
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03/26/2007 07:24:15 AM · #3
My best suggestion would be to get your hands on some food mags featuring good quality photography and study their images.

Look at angles, backgrounds, crops, depth of field. These are all areas where you can really make your images stand out.

Lighting is always even with no reflections in the shiny surfaces/ sauces so you'll need to think about diffusing your light source.

Also, are you expected to do the styling as well (setting up the dishes and place settings) or just do lighting and photography?

Message edited by author 2007-03-26 07:24:23.
03/26/2007 08:25:19 AM · #4
Check out this article on Food Styling
03/26/2007 08:29:01 AM · #5
And this Article on An Introduction to Food Photography
03/26/2007 08:32:13 AM · #6
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Here are a few of mine. If you like them and are looking for a similar effect, my first bit of advice will be to create/simulate a "window" with sunlight blasting using a nice lighting system. You will need a softbox and some bounce card without question. Mirrors work beautifully too.

Depending on what you are shooting and the shadows that will be cast, back or side light your shots and use the bounce card to reduce shadows and fill the opposite side of the plate.

Like Kavey said, get some food mags and study closely, where the light is hitting the food. Study the shadows and keep in mind that the same angle won't work for every plate depending the height of the food or depth of the dish/bowl.

Message edited by author 2007-04-21 20:02:09.
03/26/2007 10:21:41 AM · #7
Peanut oil on a large very soft brush will become your best friend ... :)
03/26/2007 10:30:01 AM · #8
One more thing...

Insanely shallow dofs are en vogue you'll notice in many of todays popular cookbooks. Generally speaking, the more artsy books are shot that way. Capturing the pure essence of whatever dish you are shooting within a relatively small sharp segment or focal point, in frame, can be highly desired by many publishers.

My shooting is rather timid in that regard. As I get better I will hopefully be able to pick out the strongest point or part of a dish and bring it forth using a shallow dof. I've also noticed that some images are post processed to slightly lower the contrast and saturation of the image outside of those points of focus.

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this might be a decent example

Hotpastas work is beautiful. Definitely give it a look and pm him for some helpful words.

Message edited by author 2007-03-26 13:19:23.
03/26/2007 01:07:07 PM · #9
You people are the BEST!

Thanks so much!
03/26/2007 02:37:28 PM · #10
Looking forward to seeing how well you do! This is my future area of expertise. When you get some of it done, can you post some of the shots?
Keeping my eye on this post.
03/26/2007 05:36:42 PM · #11
will do ;)
03/26/2007 07:04:34 PM · #12
Originally posted by Tlemetry:

This is my future area of expertise.

If true food doesn't work out for ya, try combining geology and the culinary arts (let's call it "geoculinary" photographs)... LOL!

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03/27/2007 11:52:42 AM · #13
Originally posted by Greetmir:

Peanut oil on a large very soft brush will become your best friend ... :)


Watch out on this front - depending on what kind of publication and which country your talking about you may fall foul of regulations concering food photography.

I don't know the details but I do remember reading that food photos taken for commercial use or to illustrate foods that can be purchased as complete recipes CANNOT be faked i.e. no painting with oil to make it look glossy, no substituting ingredients, no dyes etc. Check out if any of these rules are applicable to what you're doing.

Oh, another tip I've come across for dishes that don't included sauces (that can congeal) is to let the dish cool and then shoot it.
04/21/2007 04:26:55 AM · #14
Ok, so here are a few that a took last week. It was brutal work. 8.5 hours of work for 8 dishes. You can check the image descriptions.

It's brutal working with people that have no clue about photography and have high expectations. They have crazy ideas that aren't realistic and don't even know they aren't realistic. They think that you point and shoot and voila. That put a lot of pressure on me. You will notice that all the shots have grass in them. I didn't think it was good idea but they HAD to have it. What am I going to do? Argue?

Almost every dish needed different lighting depending on how greasy it was or in what kind of dish it was.

The dishes are 100% natural. NO chemicals, no paint etc, and that makes it that much harder ;)

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04/21/2007 04:37:21 AM · #15
Really like your viewpoint and DOF in the first one but it seems off balance. Possibly needs to be rotated a touch.

The second one I really like your lighting and DOF again. I'm not 100% on the composition but it's perfectly acceptable I think and you should be proud of it.

I'm not sure about the colour balance in the third one. Seems too yellow and a touch dark too. Also I'd crop another sliver from the top to improve the shape/ line of the bowl edge.

The last one is my least favourite because of the suspended strawberry at the top. That seems hugely unnatural, unbalances the composition and just doesn't work for me. I suspect though that it was their idea not yours! Again I find the tilt off-putting and think it needs rotating but that may be a personal preference.

All in all I think you have done a fantastic job for your first food shoot ever and I should think the clients are very pleased.

By the way, a fair proportion of food magazines are also restricted to real, natural, unadultered dishes due to regulations! Certainly in the UK anyways.
04/21/2007 04:57:36 AM · #16
Originally posted by Kavey:

Really like your viewpoint and DOF in the first one but it seems off balance. Possibly needs to be rotated a touch.

The second one I really like your lighting and DOF again. I'm not 100% on the composition but it's perfectly acceptable I think and you should be proud of it.

I'm not sure about the colour balance in the third one. Seems too yellow and a touch dark too. Also I'd crop another sliver from the top to improve the shape/ line of the bowl edge.

The last one is my least favourite because of the suspended strawberry at the top. That seems hugely unnatural, unbalances the composition and just doesn't work for me. I suspect though that it was their idea not yours! Again I find the tilt off-putting and think it needs rotating but that may be a personal preference.

All in all I think you have done a fantastic job for your first food shoot ever and I should think the clients are very pleased.

By the way, a fair proportion of food magazines are also restricted to real, natural, unadultered dishes due to regulations! Certainly in the UK anyways.


Yeah, these images are unaltered because my screen isn;t calibrated and i can't find the equipment to be able to calibrate it here in Poland. So I left it up to the guys to swich around the colours if need be. Also they will most likely re-crop the shots to fit their layout etc. And yes, the strawberry in the class wasn't my idea :) They really wanted it to be there :s

I never knew how hard composition is when it comes to food. Food isn't interesting to look at really, especially when you don't have a stylist setting it up for you.
04/21/2007 06:07:08 PM · #17
Did you mostly enjoy the experience though?
04/21/2007 06:28:07 PM · #18
I think for a first time, you did exceptionally well! Food is HARD to shoot effectively! With a little practice you can get really good at it.
It was a brave thing to take on this assignment without any prior experience. I have been practicing for a while now and not sure I would take it on quite yet. One question, was the client happy?
04/21/2007 08:08:17 PM · #19
I just bought this book Nobu West because I was blown away by the photographs. Freaky beautiful images, is all I can say.

I plan on copying a number of the shots for practice, using whatever food I can get delivered. Study the lighting angles...the plate ware...the shooting surfaces and the backgrounds, then go to nuts.

Here's a site that lists over a 100 cookbooks where you can see close-ups of the book covers.

Like this one and this one...can't go wrong for some free ideas.

Cheers!

edited: Here's a great page for drink shots

Message edited by author 2007-04-21 21:49:38.
04/22/2007 10:16:20 AM · #20
Originally posted by Kavey:

Did you mostly enjoy the experience though?


Yeah, it was great. It was hard work but totally worth it. And if this works out well, there might be quite bit of money in this and I will have work on a regular basis :)
04/22/2007 10:18:25 AM · #21
Originally posted by Tlemetry:

One question, was the client happy?


Yeah, they were more satisfied than I was HAHAHA. I have the intention of working on food pics. it's brutal work but it's the idea of seeing your work in a magazine that makes it all worth it! I'm leaving my mark in society HAHAHA.

Chris

04/22/2007 10:21:42 AM · #22
Pawdrix, in one of the comments you left me you mention that you would increase the temperature of the shot. How would you do that when actually taking the shot, as in during the shoot and not in RawShooter.

Chris

edit: oh, and when you take your shots, do you have a stylist setting up the composition, or do you do it yourself? I didn't have one and so the people I work for set the food up themselves and some of the dishes were impossible to compose nicely as a result.

Message edited by author 2007-04-22 10:27:30.
04/22/2007 01:14:23 PM · #23
Originally posted by smyk:

Originally posted by Tlemetry:

One question, was the client happy?


Yeah, they were more satisfied than I was HAHAHA. I have the intention of working on food pics. it's brutal work but it's the idea of seeing your work in a magazine that makes it all worth it! I'm leaving my mark in society HAHAHA.

Chris


I can't wait to see one of mine someday in publication.
That would be so awsome!
04/22/2007 01:20:08 PM · #24
Originally posted by smyk:

Originally posted by Kavey:

Did you mostly enjoy the experience though?


Yeah, it was great. It was hard work but totally worth it. And if this works out well, there might be quite bit of money in this and I will have work on a regular basis :)


That's fantastic!
04/22/2007 02:38:03 PM · #25
Originally posted by smyk:

Pawdrix, in one of the comments you left me you mention that you would increase the temperature of the shot. How would you do that when actually taking the shot, as in during the shoot and not in RawShooter.

Chris

edit: oh, and when you take your shots, do you have a stylist setting up the composition, or do you do it yourself? I didn't have one and so the people I work for set the food up themselves and some of the dishes were impossible to compose nicely as a result.


I meant the original lighting should be warmer not a rawshooter, PS type of thing. Back or side lighting in general will do it...lighting from the front can be too brash.

Light your food like a Vermeer...
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and use some bounce card facing against the light to soften the shadows.
In other words, create a window effect with your light(s) from the back or side and you'll get some warmth. The Vermeer painting above pretty much says it all. My bread shot hopefully makes the connection. A softbox will help quite a bit...perhaps essential.

I have worked with a stylist but all the images posted on DPC, I did myself. I would go to a restaurant and order food to be delivered at 10-15 minute intervals, I would set up different background props and re-arrange the food to my liking, when it arrived. Not too much...just enough to make the plate camera friendly. Each shot probably took 10 minutes.

Message edited by author 2007-04-22 15:13:26.
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